Tornado touchdown

Yards are a mangled mess

What appears to have been a tornado, moved from McAuley to Kenton leaving a wake of destruction that will tally into the millions of dollars. 

Officially, Environment Canada has not called this a tornado touch-down, but in many yards, it looks like there were suction and twisting forces at work. People reported feeling like they were in a time warp, in the grip of this storm. No towns in the area appear to have been hit like the rural yards were.

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Harding Fair was just winding down; many of those hit were away that Friday evening, and they were glad they were. The list is long, of loss and damage to buildings, bins, fences, crops and immense disaster to a generation of large trees. However, no human injuries were reported from this vicious storm.

Most of the day Friday, there were weather warnings of severe thunder storms and a tornado watch was issued throughout southern Manitoba.

Wind and golfball sized hail stones lambasted Eric and Melissa Pateman’s yard near McAuley around 8:00 p.m. Eric had just put his son to bed and was outside looking at very black clouds when he decided he better get inside before he got wet.

With black clouds overhead, and a warning flashing across his television screen, Pateman took his sleeping son to the basement.

“It sounded like a combine in the house, it was really loud,” he said.

When Pateman emerged some half-hour later, he found his farm sign had travelled nearly half-a-mile from the end of his lane, six hopper bins were blown over and the force caved an empty 36,000 bu. bin. He estimates the damage at $250,000. Grain augers were strewn about, “everything’s scattered every which direction,” said the young farmer. Horses in a shelter were untouched.

North of Virden in the Lenore district, Lyle Brown was returning home. “I think we must have been on the edge of it. It took half the roof off our cattle shed, upset a bunch of windbreak pens...tore out trees.” The main hydro service pole was snapped off. Browns, along with others in the swath of the storm, lost power Friday evening.

On Monday afternoon, two days after the storm hit, Travis and Rilla Hunter’s house yard, (between Lenore and Kenton) has a tidy look with huge naked tree stumps neatly finished off. Thirty-five friends, family and neighbours turned out Sunday to help them clean-up the yard.

“There were trucks from there (she points to the back farm yard out to the road at the end of the lane) to there. They came with chainsaws and rakes, they mowed, they cut.”


Rilla was in good spirits, but Friday night’s storm shook her, as she and her son Brody and his girlfriend drove into the yard to unload cattle from the show at Harding Fair.

“We had just brought the cattle home and had just got them unloaded into the barn,” she explained. She saw the bad weather coming and suggested her son park the vehicles in the shop, for fear of hail. “It was a matter of 10 minutes from the time they unloaded the cattle...they had to run from the shop to the house and they were in the house for two minutes and the big tree came down.”

Sometime around 9:15 p.m. this storm hit, the family headed to the basement, and Hunter lost track of time, “It was kind of a time warp after that,” she said.

She thinks it was a tornado and those who saw the yard agreed, it was not just a wind. They began to count up their toppled bins and there was one partly missing. “The rest of the bin is a quarter mile from the yard site. And, it pushed a tractor that was on the big bale picker 100 yards through a fence,” Hunter said.

“We’ve lost two cattle sheds and the roof of one is away over in our field, a quarter of a mile this way,” she points. “We’ve got stuff going this way, and this way, and this way...”

It seems unexplainable that their house was almost unharmed, considering the large debris that was flying through the air. Another pleasant surprise, the show cattle next to the wrecked shelter were all fine.

“I was thankful my son was here,” she said, adding that her husband Travis, being president of the Harding Ag Society, had remained behind to shut the power off when all the fair goers left.

Nearby, Kelsey Baker and Kyle Wright’s home lost part of its roof; big trees within 20 feet of the house were downed, but didn’t hit the home or any people. A wooden flower planter was moved across the yard, unharmed.

Just west a mile, John and Karen Wright’s cattle operation and grounds were also devastated; it took them six hours to clear a path up the driveway into their yard. Two cattle sheds were blown apart, and the garage roof has a huge hole; but most disheartening was the ruination of a beautiful yard where grandchildren regularly played. Fifty-year-old trees are destroyed; the large perennial bed is not accessible, covered in debris. Yet, absolutely untouched are a couple of Wright’s favourite potted plants on the front deck.

Just a mile west of Hwy 21, Harvey and Bonnie Sangster described the storm like a war zone, a barrage of deafening bangs, as the house shook and debris broke through windows. They were upstairs in their two-story home when the storm hit late Friday night, glad not to have been in their kitchen.

“A log went right through our screen door,” said Bonnie Sangster. Numerous windows are broken in the house.

 “It showered the whole kitchen with powdered glass,” explains Harvey Sangster. Glass was embedded into the kitchen wallpaper across the room.

The couple, now into their 70s look around what used to be their paradise, a well kept, beautifully treed yard, and wonder how they will ever clean up.

From property just a half mile up the road steel grain bins were hit and several older wooden grain bins are completely gone, strewn across Sangster’s nearby hay field – just when he was ready to cut the field.

Harvey Sangster recalls a similar storm that hit what was a dairy just a couple of kilometres up the road. It was July 1, 1945. Wind took a big barn down, while the home under construction in the same yard was left untouched.

While Miniota received hail, and tornado effects were felt near McAuley (well north of Elkhorn) the vicious storm was tracking southeast. Near Rd 63N and Hwy 21, near the old Shilo Church site, a hip roof barn was reportedly ripped off its foundation and dumped in a nearby slough - the contents within left sitting. Residents in that area didn’t hear the typical freight-train tornado sound due to constant booming thunder and rain pelting down.

© Virden Empire-Advance